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Movie Review

'Ladies Man' Makes a Fairly Smooth Move


Of the many dimwitted ego-trippers and self-deluded goofballs who pop up repeatedly on "Saturday Night Live," the one character who seemed least likely to carry a feature-length film on his own is Leon, a.k.a. "The Ladies Man." As with most sketch characters, Tim Meadows' crafty evocation of a cognac-sipping, incense-burning "lonely hearts" advisor with an overreaching libido and an obsession with black-macho cool (circa 1974) is funny in five-minute bursts. Thirty minutes or more is another matter.

So it's a pleasant surprise to find that "The Ladies Man," the movie, manages to sustain a sweet, funny groove for, say, 65 of its 85 minutes. That may sound like praise with faint damnation, but compared with such overstuffed trifles as "It's Pat," "Stuart Saves His Family" or "A Night at the Roxbury," it's almost (but not quite) a slam-dunk.

One reason for "Ladies Man's" relative success is Meadows, who also co-wrote the script. Though his tenure on "SNL" has been long and solid, he rarely gets the credit he deserves for his impeccable timing and understated wit, neither of which are qualities easily embraced within the prevailing bluster of "post-boomer" comedy. As Leon, Meadows nimbly balances faux suavity and preening cluelessness. He's good enough to make you wish he used his talents on developing a character as opposed to filling in a caricature's blank spaces.

But then, blank spaces thrive in the dubious intellect of the Ladies Man, here given a Chicago address (on a tacky lakefront houseboat) and a job as a host of an after-hours radio talk show. His faithful, plucky producer Julie (Karyn Parsons from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air") is apparently the only woman in the universe immune to Leon's moldy, lisping come-ons. The cuckolded husbands of Leon's conquests, led by fellow "SNL" stalwart Will Ferrell as an ambiguously gay wrestler, have banded together to chase down Leon--with show-stopping dance tunes to boot.

Reginald Hudlin directs this good-natured, frequently hilarious gag bag with a light touch and a winking appreciation for the "mack-daddy" 1970s milieu gently mocked by Meadows' creation. Having Billy Dee Williams around as a narrator-confidant-mentor-figure is an especially cozy touch. Such homespun graces aren't enough to keep "The Ladies Man" from losing what little edge it has toward the end. But it's still a reasonably pleasant ramble.

* MPAA rating: R, for sexual content and language. Times guidelines: one fairly gross scene but otherwise mild for this type of film.

'The Ladies Man'

Tim Meadows: Leon

Karyn Parsons: Julie

Billy Dee Williams: Lester

John Witherspoon: Scrap Iron

A Paramount Pictures presentation, in association with SNL Studios, released by Paramount Pictures. Director Reginald Hudlin. Producer Lorne Michaels. Executive producers Robert K. Weiss, Erin Fraser, Thomas K. Levine. Screenplay by Tim Meadows & Dennis McNicholas & Andrew Steele. Cinematographer Johnny E. Jensen. Editor Earl Watson. Costume designer Eydi Caines-Floyd. Music Marcus Miller. Production designer Franco De Cotiis. Art director Cheryl Toy. Set decorator Zeljka Alosinac. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

In general release.

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